In Seattle seeing family in March, I noticed American Indian and Asian populations, both with epicanthic folds.  The epicanthis fold is considered a neotenous feature because all humans exhibit this in the womb.  Many are born with the feature and lose it as they grow older.

As noted in previous pieces (see http://www.neoteny.org/?p=375), people with Down syndrome display the fold.  People with Down syndrome exhibit a host of neotenous features.

What strikes me is the possibility that epicanthis folds might offer a signal for social structure anomalies.  This seems a stretch because Asian societies are largely patrifocal, negating the feature’s correlation with matrifocal societies.  Still, it would be interesting to know the variety of cultures around the world that display this feature.

I’ve discussed the two different kinds of neotenous societies, the Scandinavian and Asian paradigms.  The two kinds of societies display two different clusters of neotenous characteristics.  Scandinavians show blond hair, blue eyes, light skin, lanky builds and egalitarian societies.  Asians display light skin, childlike, fragile features, short height and the epicanthic folds.

One society matrifocal at its foundation, the other society patrifocal.

The tentative resolution of this conflict was discussed in the series of posts noted here.  It is still not clear to me why some neotenous features congregated around one paradigm vs. the other.  For example, why do Asians display the epicanthis fold, and Scandinavians not?

Observing American Indians in Seattle with the folds, it strikes me that there is the possibility that the little light that might have driven Scandinavian neoteny might be encouraging Northern American continent Indians to retain the folds.  Then again, Arctic Circle Indians are closely related to Asians, clearly more closely related than American Indians living farther South that don’t display the fold.  So, maybe there is no suggestion that climates with little light encourage the feature.

Wikipedia notes several areas around the world outside Asia and the Pacific exhibiting folds.  I guess I’d like to know how high a proportion of these cultures might be matrifocal.  What would this even mean?


Comments

This entry was posted on Tuesday, June 23rd, 2009 at 7:29 am and is filed under Neoteny, Social Structure. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.
8 Comments so far

  1. Werner on October 2, 2009 8:30 pm

    You need to understand that there are several mechanisms through which epicanthic folds arise … has to do with bone structure – in asians it’s due to the evolution related to cranial expansion which resulted in absent brow ridges , the degeneration of facial bone structure technically results in the phenotype of epicanthic folds . It all has to do with absent brow ridges , the cranium may expand or degenerate to exhibit this trait .

  2. Andersen on March 29, 2010 8:13 pm

    Why would you compare asians to scandinavians? When some scandinavians have slanted eyes and other asian features. I would know im a scandinavian american and some of my relatives that are more scandinavian than me have high cheek bones and in some cases slanted eyes like asians

  3. Andrew on March 30, 2010 11:10 am

    That’s fascinating that some Scandinavians have the eye folds. I was not aware of this. This suggests powerfully the neotenous features discussed in this blog postings and other postings that are related.

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